Local artist a finalist in the prestigious NATSIAA Indigenous art award

‘Dog tag to be human’ 2023, by Jingalu.

BOAMBEE East artist, Jingalu (Melissa Craig) has been named a finalist in the Telstra National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards (NATSIAA), which opens on 12 August 2023 at The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT).

She is the only finalist from NSW, suggesting she is a name to watch in the national arts world.

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The NATSIAA is Australia’s longest-running and most-prestigious Indigenous art award, with the exhibition showcasing the very best in Australian Indigenous art by contemporary artists from across Australia.

Talking with News Of The Area, Jingalu said the purpose of her art was to be able to tell stories, “keeping our culture alive through the way we’ve always done it with drawings, paintings, carvings, engravings, art,” she said.

Her love for her grandfather and the heartbreak she feels knowing how he has suffered through his life is the subject of her work, called ‘Dog tag to be human’.

“I was inspired by my grandfather, to tell our untold history here in Australia through art.

“I loved and still love him so much, and it truly breaks my heart to know the treatment he endured for the majority of his lifetime, just because he was Indigenous,” she said.

“My grandfather was born at a time when our people had to apply for a Certificate of Exemption, to have the freedoms afforded white people.

“This is his exemption.

“The old ones called them dog tags.

“Basically, it was a dog tag saying you’re allowed to be a human in our society now.”

Her grandfather was 44 when he got this.

In the painting, “the white hands represent white man trying every way possible to stop our culture from existing,” she said.

“Our symbols in the background show they couldn’t destroy us.

“My grandfather was fluent in the different languages for the north coast of NSW.

“He retained a lot of his culture,” said Jingalu.

The medium used for the artwork is Perma Pastik acrylic paints.

“They are really nice to use and mix.

“I sealed it with liquitex matte varnish.”

Jingalu enjoys the satisfaction her art gives her.

“Doing anything creative keeps me content, focused and happy.

“I love doing art with kids and being able to share.”

Each year of its 40-year history, the exhibition has captured the attention of the nation with an inspiring breadth of work from emerging and established Indigenous artists.

Award winners will be announced today (Friday 11 August 2023) at 6pm NSW time.


The artist Jingalu (Melissa Craig), at her studio in Boambee East.

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